Top 10 Employee Training Tools: Driver Training


Top 10 Employee Training Tools: Driver Training

Good truck drivers make good decisions.

Truck drivers are given the very important task of transporting a company’s finished components from the production facility to the jobsite. The components they haul represent hours of dedicated hard work on behalf of sales staff, designers, sawyers and production employees. It follows that the ultimate success of the company depends on truck drivers doing their jobs well and safely delivering components to customers in a timely manner.

Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have shown that approximately 88 percent of vehicular accidents were directly caused by unsafe actions taken by drivers. Additionally, according to FMCSA data, a majority of accidents involving commercial motor vehicles were caused by employees with less than two years of experience with a company (regardless of their previous driving experience). Obviously, accidents happen, but through proactive training and monitoring, the goal is to minimize the opportunity for them to occur. 

In this article, we will briefly look at various aspects of a truck driver’s responsibilities and share some established industry best practices on how company management and drivers can approach those duties in a way that minimizes the risk of an accident. Most of this material is pulled directly from SBCA’s TRUCK Basic Driver Training program. If you find this information useful, you may want to consider taking a closer look at this program.

Making Good Decisions

Having truck drivers who make good decisions and avoid unsafe actions starts with the hiring process. Finding individuals to drive trucks who have the type of experience that fits in well with the types of loads the components industry delivers is a difficult task. A growing economy, coupled with a surging energy boom, is creating a high demand for men and women with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL). While drivers are necessary to deliver product to the jobsite, the consequences of hiring and trusting someone who makes bad decisions behind the wheel can expose a company to risks that can put it out of business quickly. In today’s environment of short supply, it may be more advantageous to hire someone who can be trusted to make good decisions and pay for them to earn their CDL.

In evaluating potential truck drivers, after reviewing their driving record, ask to take a look at their personal vehicle. While drivers shouldn’t be judged on the type of car they drive, the care they take to keep their personal vehicle clean inside and out, as well as evidence they keep up preventative maintenance, says a lot about how they will treat the company’s equipment.

Another simple test is to ask a potential hire to show you how they get in and out of a truck cab. Do they use all the hand and foot holds when climbing in and out? Do they keep their center of gravity over their feet and then climb in easily, or do they have a tendency to swing in or out? This simple act can be one of the most common sources of personal injury for drivers. A driver who gets in and out of their cab in a safe and methodical manner exhibits the ability to make good decisions and avoid unsafe actions.

Vehicle Inspection & Maintenance

vehicle inspection & maintenanceA commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is a significant capital expenditure that needs to last many years in order for a company to achieve a reasonable return on the investment. The longevity of a CMV and its associated equipment (i.e., trailer, tie-downs, tires, etc.) is tied directly to the care of the driver responsible for it. Care begins with regular and thorough pre-trip inspections. While a driver should automatically conduct a standard inspection before each trip, they shouldn’t be on auto-pilot when they do it. The driver needs to have a critical eye for everything from engine fluid levels to unusual tire wear. Each trip exposes a vehicle to debris that unwittingly can be kicked up by tires and damage equipment. A driver who makes the bad decision of assuming everything is okay is a recipe for potential accidents or a broken down CMV on the side of the road.

Pre-trip inspections help ensure small issues are caught early so that maintenance can be done before major equipment failures occur. Having a regular preventative maintenance schedule for all CMV equipment (including trailers and load securement equipment) complements driver inspections to keep CMVs running smoothly and cost effectively while also increasing vehicle life expectancy.

Cargo Loading & Securement

cargo loading & securementWhile cargo loading is typically accomplished by forklift drivers and a material handling crew, the driver is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the cargo is loaded properly and adequately secured for transport. Once the vehicle leaves the yard, if anything goes wrong with the load (e.g., product comes loose and falls off the truck), the driver is held accountable for noncompliance with the law and/or resulting property damage.

With regard to cargo load and securement in the components industry, there isn’t a huge difference between a CDL driver with 15 years of experience driving box trucks or hauling dry van trailers and a driver with only two years of professional driving experience. The irregular shape and size of the products hauled by the components industry, combined with rigorous federal load securement requirements, means that practically every driver will need to be trained from scratch. One exception to this may be taking experienced material handling workers and helping them earn their CDLs.

When initially evaluating one truck driver candidate versus another during the hiring process, taking them out to the yard and asking them to identify what to look for in cargo positioning and advise on how they would secure a load of components can provide good insight into their ability to critically assess load distribution and positioning. For example, do they naturally understand why an oversized load of roof trusses should always have the bottom chords flush with the driver side of the trailer and the peak hanging off the passenger side of the trailer?

Just as thorough pre-trip inspections of their vehicles and equipment should be a natural part of their process before they drive, drivers should be in the habit of inspecting their cargo before it’s secured to the trailer. In the same way, load securement can be a straightforward process, but that does not mean it’s easy or can be done exactly the same way for each load.

Again, drivers are responsible for the load and its securement once they leave the plant, so it makes sense they should be the one to secure it. Given the many configurations of components, and the order in which they are stacked, the total weight and its distribution changes from load to load. A driver needs to be able to assess those aspects of the load in order to properly choose the number and location of tie-downs. This is most effectively learned through repetition and experience. It may be a good idea to have a veteran driver present to observe and provide guidance while new drivers assess and secure their loads until proving they are proficient at it.

Cargo Delivery

A company’s truck drivers are unique in that they typically operate without supervision. While occasional ride-alongs by management can be a good way to ensure drivers meet or exceed company expectations, for the most part, drivers are on their own. Yet, they are ultimately responsible for ensuring a company’s final product arrives undamaged and ready to install. Further, drivers are a company’s customer service agents on the jobsite. 

Once they arrive at the jobsite, drivers are responsible for much more than just effectively offloading components. They should also be responsible for: distributing handling and installation instructions (i.e., Jobsite Packages); documenting product delivery (many CMs require their drivers to take digital photos of each component package delivery to ensure damage or poor storage was not the fault of the company); assisting with installation (depending on the market, the components may be craned and either set on the top plate or installed individually); and ensuring those who receive the company’s products are happy before they leave the jobsite.

Add to this the fact that offloading components is not always an easy or straightforward process. There are many risks inherent in material handling on a jobsite populated by other tradespeople. To address some of those risks, a group of CMs worked with SBCA to create the Safety Zone program. It’s an industry-specific, best practice guide for truck drivers to follow to create a safer environment in which to deliver components, depending on whether a roll-off trailer, a forklift or a crane is used to offload product.


Truck drivers are responsible for some of a company’s most expensive capital expenditures (CMVs), shoulder a significant amount of company risk (hauling product on public roads with large, heavy vehicles, sometimes at high speeds), and are the public face of a company on each jobsite they visit. It’s easy to see why it’s so important to choose and train individuals who are proficient at making good decisions and are deliberate in how they take on and accomplish their duties.

Ben Hershey is a Past President of SBCA and Owner of 4Ward Consulting Group - Experts in Lean Management & Manufacturing. Material Handling will be covered in the March issue.